The Messy Work of Dissecting Sentences

We’re in the midst of a unit on Parts of Speech (hey, did you know yesterday was Grammar Day? I didn’t, even though we were working on grammar all day. The video — March Forth — is from The Grammar Girl). We’ve been working on nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, interjections (!) and conjunctions for about two weeks and now they are into a project in which they color-code various parts of speech in their own writing. (See the project handout)
Parts of Speech sample project

I can’t say they are having fun with it.¬† Isolating words¬† and trying to determine what role they play in context of a sentence is difficult work for sixth graders (heck, and for most adults), but I do hope that by using their own writing, it is a bit more authentic of an activity.

Of course, who am I kidding? Knowing Parts of Speech does not make you a better writer. Still, this is one of those topics that the curriculum requires and on some level, I do believe they need to have a grasp on what role words are playing in their writing. The Parts of Speech unit follows our work around the Origin of Words, and we will next move into Sentence Structure, and then on to Paragraph Writing, and then to Essays. I’ve tried to make our work a logical progression of sorts, so that students see how their longer writing is built out of smaller pieces.

The projects are due next week. We’ll see how they do.

Peace (that’s a noun, right?),

  1. I didn’t know yesterday was Grammar Day. I didn’t even get my wife a card or anything!

    But like you, we were coincidentally doing grammar anyway. One big epiphany for students was, you can’t tell a part of speech unless the word’s in context. Another big epiphany came later (in a lesson on avoiding passive voice) that grammar is a real handy thing to know when writers are talking about their craft. So when the teacher says, “we need a stronger adverb here,” or “move that prepositional phrase elsewhere,” you’ll have a clue what’s going on.

    Thanks for the ideas mentioned above. Will check them out and give them a go!

  2. Kevin
    I read this post with interest, as on Friday during writing I introduced the importance of using strong verbs in writing. I wasn’t long into the lesson when I realised many of them had no idea what a verb or action word was. Or had forgotten. We are only beginning our school year. Ouch. So back to the drawing board. Thanks for sharing your project handout. I see I have to back track and this handout will help to round it off.

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